Paula Gillespie's Reviews > The Last Thing You Surrender

The Last Thing You Surrender by Leonard Pitts Jr.
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This is one of the most impactful books I've read in many years. It was hard to read the descriptions of unending conflicts during the Jim Crow era, but if anyone doubts that the unrelenting pressure on Blacks exists, I hope they will read Mirror To America by eminent historian John Hope Franklin. In his first few pages, Franklin enumerates incidents of the culturally accepted cruelty he experienced from his toddler years to the recent past. The war action in the novel reminded me of Mailer's The Naked and The Dead, but where Mailer offered only despair at the atrocities of war, Pitts holds out the possibility of love and healing. I really cared about the characters and wanted good things for them. There were chills-down-the-spine moments in the book, including a very Vonnegut-like appearance of a historical character in the fictional setting that brought tears to my eyes in the best way. I won't spoil it. You'll find it.
For years I taught an Intro to Fiction course at Marquette University, and I chose my books with an eye to Marquette's mission of social justice. I agreed with Joseph Conrad that a great work of literature should "justify itself in every line." Luckily I didn't take that too literally or there would have been no course, but I would happily have included The Last Thing You Surrender in my syllabus and I would expect it to lead to fruitful analysis and class discussions on many topics. I think that my students would be shocked to learn about the laws spelled out in the novel that prohibited blacks and whites even from driving together and that made segregation the law in living arrangements and in the workplace. I had history lessons one after another, and I thought I knew quite a bit; I had no idea. Thanks and congratulations to Leonard Pitts Jr. for this outstanding American novel.
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Reading Progress

October 17, 2019 – Started Reading
October 17, 2019 – Shelved
November 6, 2019 – Finished Reading

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